top of page

The Prowler

This is one of the creepiest films noir I've seen. Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) is a sleazy cop dispatched to have a look around the home of Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes), who has reported a peeping Tom. The prowler is gone, and Susan's husband (John), a late night radio personality, is at work. Garwood falls for Susan right away, especially her wealth, and he comes across John's life insurance policy. An affair lasts for a spell before Garwood gets a sinister idea and dumps Susan in order to carry out his plan. John is next to take on the part of "prowler" but not deliberately. The crime has been set up, and Garwood shoots the unsuspecting husband dead.

Susan at first accuses Garwood of murder, then she's seduced by his slick charm and is convinced the killing was an accident. She marries him, too, just weeks into widowhood. Their honeymoon goes south when they go north to a ghost town called Calico and Susan tells her new hubbie she's had their bun in the oven for four months. What? Four months! That means everyone will know they were sleeping together before John was murdered. They try to come up with a solution. My favorite: give the baby up for adoption and then adopt it so they'll have the papers to prove it's not really theirs. (Um, huh?)

The Prowler (1951), directed by Joseph Losey and produced by Sam Spiegel, was scripted by Dalton Trumbo, who was on the Hollywood blacklist that year so the film was credited to someone else, but interestingly it's Trumbo's voice we hear every time John speaks on the radio. It's John's signature sign-off "I'll be seeing you, Susan," off an old album, that spookily interrupts the newlyweds' baby planning, and Susan breaks down and goes into labor. Their new life falls apart quickly, and as Garwood's crumbles fastest he tries to escape the police (Halt! Halt! Halt!) by climbing up a gravelly hillside while displaced stones roll down behind him in an unsubtle shower of foreshadowing. Awesome.


bottom of page